The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently fell on its sword so to speak, regarding the collapse of the levees that protected New Orleans from flooding.
Less than two months before the start of another hurricane season, the Corps admitted that it was their design flaw that allowed soil along the canal to erode, thereby causing the floodwall to cave in. After that, water went pouring into the city, and the rest, as they say, is history.
To local residents, the admission wasn't much of a surprise. Many here never believed early arguments that the flooding of New Orleans by a category three hurricane was caused by water pouring over the top of the levees and overwhelming them.
But the Corps had another shocker. It won't cost $3.5 billion to shore-up the levee system, as the Corps had predicted. No, repairs will cost about $6 billion more, for a total price tag of $9.5 billion. That's because the rebuilt levees have to be higher and need more reinforcement than the old ones.
New Orleans residents fear that if the city floods again it is going to be the death knell here. Take Liane Buchert (that's BOO-shay for those of you outside this area). Her home and restaurant were both ruined by the flood after Katrina.
But she exemplifies the strong character of so many people who remain here. She now sells boiled crawfish in front of her washed-out restaurant, and judging by the lines, business is good. But she thinks it would be too hard financially and emotionally to pick up the pieces again if another hurricane blasted the city.
"If the levees break again, I doubt I will be back," Liane said.
And there is no guarantee $10 billion dollars in improvements will protect the city from the next hurricane.
Lt. Gen. Carl Strock of the Army Corps put it this way: "Without being trite or cute here, how do you say to the people in San Francisco that no one will die in an earthquake?"
That's not exactly what stressed-out residents thought they would hear from the man in charge of repairing the levee system as the hurricane season bears down on them June 1.